With a 30-23 loss to the Rams at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday, the Vikings created two problems.

The first could get everyone fired.

The second could be really serious.

The Vikings' immediate predicament is that they have two games remaining in which to secure a playoff spot, and the first is at Lambeau Field.

Their bigger concern for the future of the franchise is that Justin Jefferson, their historically-great receiver, second-guessed the Vikings' offensive coaches, sounded confused about one throw from his quarterback and questioned the team's intensity.

Jefferson didn't throw a fit or raise his voice. This was a quiet storm. The Vikings might want to duct-tape their windows and shelter in the basement anyway.

"We came out way too slow," Jefferson said. "You know, we didn't have any energy in the first quarter. … I felt as soon as I came into the locker room, trying to pick up the guys. … We still didn't come up with that energy that we needed to.''

Jefferson had just set a record for most receiving yards through two NFL seasons, breaking the mark set by friend and Rams receiver Odell Beckham Jr. But Jefferson was much more interested in talking about what was wrong with his team.

The Vikings' only score of the first half came after Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr returned an interception to the Rams' 11. The Vikings kicked a 23-yard field goal.

"I think we should, you know, be more aggressive, when we get down there," Jefferson said. "As soon as we get down there. But I'm not the one calling the plays. I'm just here to do my job and do what was told to me. But we can't get down to the red zone that many times and come out with three points."

Late in the first half, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins threw behind Jefferson for an incompletion. Cousins explained that he saw a safety approaching and was trying to get Jefferson to stay in an open window in the defense.

Jefferson said: "I think Kirk said he threw it a little too early? Or he was a little too late. One of the two. It was just a little behind."

That Jefferson was willing to offer such critiques near the end of a long, frustrating season in which his team has underachieved and the jobs of most of his bosses are on the line is significant in itself.

NFL athletes are coached to avoid saying anything that will create a negative headline. Jefferson is in his second year in the league and was a star at a college football powerhouse that won the national title. He is accustomed to attention, and interviews. He has generally avoided critiquing those around him since the Vikings drafted him.

The Vikings drafted him, by the way, to replace a talented receiver, Stefon Diggs, who forced a trade because he didn't like the Vikings' offensive schemes or quarterback.

A receiver second-guessing play-calling or passing accuracy when he doesn't get the ball is not surprising, even if sets off all of the sprinklers at Vikings' headquarters.

Any young player questioning the intensity of a team playing a probably-must-win game at home in December should anger everyone who pays for tickets or spends three hours a week watching the broadcasts.

This loss ranks with the Vikings' most disappointing of the season because of its impact on the playoff race, and because the Rams didn't do anything spectacular.

The Rams ran the ball and waited for the Vikings to make mistakes. Both stratagems were richly rewarded.

Jefferson was asked how his team can avoid that happening again.

"Don't come out with a lack of energy," he said. "Just know what's at stake. I mean, it's not totally over yet. We still got some juice left. But we've just got to go and win these two games, and be aggressive, and be emotionally into it, and be emotionally prepared to fight our butt off."

Whether or not he's saying what he should say, he is saying what should not need to be said.